Non-communicable diseases (NCDs), including heart disease, stroke, cancer, diabetes and chronic obstructive respiratory diseases, are collectively responsible for almost 70% of all deaths worldwide. The epidemic of NCDs poses devastating health consequences for individuals, families and communities, and threatens to overwhelm health systems. The socioeconomic costs associated with NCDs make the prevention and control of these diseases a major development imperative for the 21st century .
The concept that early life is critical for health and disease throughout the life course is well-acknowledged and is the foundation of many prospective pregnancy and childhood cohort studies in Europe. However, to date translation of these research findings into clear policy strategies is lacking.
A reason might be that early-life exposures related to socioeconomic, migration, urban environment and lifestyle-related factors are difficult to assess in experimental studies. Hence, there is still not much evidence for prevention or intervention strategies using early life as a window of opportunity to maximize the human developmental potential during the full life cycle for current and new European generations.
The LifeCycle Project wants to change this by bringing together massive amounts of data from existing successful pregnancy and child cohorts and biobanks that will allow new conclusions on early-life stressors influencing cardio-metabolic, respiratory and mental health trajectories during the full lifecycle, and the underlying epigenetic mechanisms.
The discovery of prevention methods for early life, including preconception, pregnancy and early childhood interventions offers the potential to significantly reduce human suffering as well as health expenditures across Europe.